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The Men Who Stare at Goats

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  10,551 Ratings  ·  1,014 Reviews
In 1979 a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the U.S. Army. Defying all known accepted military practice -- and indeed, the laws of physics -- they believed that a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them.

Entrusted with defending America from all known
Kindle Edition, 273 pages
Published May 21st 2009 by Picador (first published 2004)
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Petra Eggs
It's hard to know what to say about this book as it's a light-hearted, somewhat mocking look at the various nefarious schemes of the American Military, or at least of some of the specialised recherche departments of Intelligence. However, the subject is deadly serious and what seems funny on the surface - bombarding Iraqi prisoners with an endless loop of the Barney song, 14,000 renditions over three days - really isn't when you consider that this 'information' was probably released deliberately ...more
Mar 27, 2017 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
. . . America, the great superpower, needed to be defended by people who actually had superpowers . . .

When it comes to cockamamie plots and plans to make America great again, nothing our government and the US military cooks up should surprise you. Experiments in mind control, and yes, even "psychic assassins" seem pretty much par for the course. Ronson, a British journalist who has made his name exposing the weird and the wacky, here presents several of the more hare-brained schemes once consid
Jun 13, 2010 Kemper rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After watching the movie version of The Men Who Stare At Goats, I figured that there must be a kernel of truth to it coated with several layers of Hollywood bullshit so I read the book to get an idea of what the real story was. I thought I’d get a funny story about some stupid things the military did once upon a time. Instead, the book turns into a template for starting conspiracy theories that really pissed me off.

Oddly enough, the really weird stuff that happened in the film version is the stu
during the cold war the cia was engaged in some strange strange shit -- psychic spies and remote viewings and lots more: agents staring at goats all day long trying to make their hearts explode (some of the higher ups claim to have seen it happen), agents (with badly scuffed noses and foreheads) trying to walk through walls, dosing people with lsd, playing music with subliminal messages, entering the bad guy's lair while cradling a baby lamb in one's arms as a means to overpower the enemy with s ...more
Dec 10, 2008 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My father was a nuclear weapons engineer during the cold war. Think about the levels of fear and anger and about the hyper-vigilance required to be someone planning on killing half of the planet all of the time. Thus in my experience it makes perfect sense to assume that there are paranoid nut jobs running the defense department..."Like a snail.. crawling on the edge...of a straight razor.." (Apocalypse Now.)
Every surreal anecdote relayed here is perfectly plausible. Check out the "Duck and Co
Aug 01, 2008 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jon Ronson looks at army intelligence experiments in psychic phenomena. One of these experiments, refered to in the title, was to try to kill goats by concentrating on them, real hard. Ironically, much of this stuff had its origins in the army's post-Vietnam funk, when esprit de corps was at its lowest ebb. A young colonel convinced his chain of command to allow him to study hippy philosophy as a potentially new ethic for a revived Army. All that came of this was a field manual for something cal ...more
Mar 05, 2009 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I had this book on my radar because of a review I saw soon after it came out, long before they made the movie. But I saw the movie before I got around to buying the book. I liked the movie a lot; it made me laugh.
[later] I felt compelled to do some research while reading this book. I looked at Jim Channon's and Lyn Buchanan's websites; got Google pages full of results for "remote viewing", "PsyOps", and other terms and people; and saw that Amazon sells copies of Lyn Buchanan's and Joe McMoneagle
Nov 27, 2010 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The documentarian examines how the US military intelligence community has attempted to make use of paranormal and extra-sensory techniques and how this has impacted the war on terror today. Ronson shows how Jim Channon, a US Army colonel, who wrote the “First Earth Battalion” manual which attempted to reorganize the military along non-lethal, New Age ideals such as pacifying the enemy with indigenous music, positive energy, or discordant sounds. He interviews people such as Guy Savelli, martial ...more
Nov 09, 2009 Russell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
So here's my problem with this book. The author manages to string together a long series of random tidbits in what appears to be a coherent manner, but ultimately there was no point to anything we as readers have learned. "Hey everyone, look at all of the weird things our armed forces experimented with during the war on terror! They played a Barney song over and over! They played a Sesame Street song and the composer tried to sue for royalties! Maybe the CIA killed someone once or maybe they gav ...more
This book worked hard to earn, decisively, its crop of zero stars.

It is about what supposedly happens when new age super-abilities (flying, invisibility, the power to stop a goat's heart by staring at it...) meet the oh-so-impressive military mind.

Since the military exists to destroy people and property, guess what they experiment with in attempts to gain these powers and apply them?


All kinds of names, dates, people and conversational bits are used to 'verify' the wildly gyrating con
Sep 24, 2016 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jon Ronson is a bloody mad man willing to research the most interesting topics. He will go from telling a Grand Wizard of the KKK to the head of intelligence for US Army to shove it up his jacksy. Throughout this book I once again realized why I became a social worker and not a soldier. I do not deal well with pain or super jocks who like to wrassle to prove their virility. I'm more like a nebbishy nerd who would rather read than inflict PSYOPS, physical torture and kill people in the name of fr ...more
The subject matter of this book is fascinating. It explores the US military's research into decidedly strange fighting and reconaissance techniques: psychic warfare (as in, soldiers using psychic powers to stop the enemy in its tracks), remote viewing, you name it. It starts out fairly lighthearted: look at what happens when you give some whackadoos in the government money to try to walk through walls! There's a serious side to it, though; out of some of the same minds that came up with the more ...more
Atila Iamarino
Jul 13, 2016 Atila Iamarino rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Esse livro tem tanta coisa bizarra que parece mentira, mas o pior é que é verdade, pelo menos em grande parte. Um relato sobre as várias tentativas do exército e da CIA americanos de fazer soldados com habilidades além das normais. Como atravessar paredes, fazer projeção astral (eles chamam de visão remota) e matar cabras com o poder da mente (daí o título). O que realmente aconteceu. O que não parece ser verdade é que a cabra morreu. Mas o ponto todo do livro não é de longe se dava certo ou não ...more
I first heard about this book back before the movie was announced. I have always had a slight, very cynical, interest in the paranormal/supernatural/mystic bullshit. So when I was told about this book I had to read it. Just for the title alone. It took a long time, always seemed to fall to the bottom of the pile, but finally I read it.

It was not quite what I was expecting but it wasn't bad. The fact that the US military and intelligence organisations (and most likely a lot of other countries, po
May 04, 2013 Mizuki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book actually is very funny, with a lot of 'maybe it's true, or maybe not so true' interesting information and details in it.

The book also points out how easily it can be for us to fall under the control of powerful suggestions, mind-control and other shit. People, be alerted!

added thoughts after re-reading@14/01/2015

I still think the author has a healthy sense of humor and the story is funny, but once the author starts telling us how music can be used to torture war-prisoners and t
Ben Hallman
You cannot accuse Jon Ronson of being dull, that’s for sure. His books consistently shed light on the fringe elements of society, be it psychopaths, Icke-followers, or the psychic soldiers depicted here. And he treats the subjects of his investigations with respect and a refreshing open-mindedness, regardless of how nutty the fruitcakes therein may be. But, in the case of The Men Who Stare At Goats, there’s a lack of cohesion to the final product. I enjoyed this book, but I’m not sure what point ...more
Thiago d'Evecque
Um livro-reportagem sobre como o movimento new age entrou no exército e como boas intenções (ou não) aliadas à ignorância e ingenuidade (novamente, ou não) podem ser perversas.

Um oficial volta da guerra do Vietnã perturbado e buscando uma maneira pacífica de vencer batalhas -- nascia aí o Primeiro Batalhão da Terra, onde supersoldados tinham o poder de encarar uma cabra até matá-la, tornarem-se invisíveis, prever acontecimentos, manipular mentes, atravessar paredes e por aí vai. Alguns deles se
Tobin Elliott
I'm finally, I think, beginning to get a sense of Ronson's method of storytelling...

Ronson basically takes a strange topic, much like Mary Roach does. But where Roach then makes a concerted effort to talk to those who blazed the trails, invented the stuff, and generally know what they're talking about and relate it to her, Ronson takes a more subversive path...

Ronson seeks out those that most wouldn't take seriously, and he takes them seriously (though, I suspect, with his tongue permanently set
Steev Hise
Mar 14, 2010 Steev Hise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, fun
This was a really fast and good read. I found out about Jon Ronson from his BBC radio series, which is a bit like This American Life, only British. In fact, I think I heard an excerpt of his show on This American Life. He's really funny, and he researches fascinating stories, a bit like Nick Broomfield.

So I expected this book to be good and fun. It was, though a little less so than I thought it would be. I think maybe part of Ronson's strength is his voice and his sort of ironic affect when he t
Thomas Edmund
The Men Who Stare at Goats is a 'mockumentry' claiming to expose the exploits of the American Government's attempts to ultilize psyhic phenomenon to further their war efforts.

The book is journalist/biography style with the author making contact with numerous military figures all somehow linked to 'psy-ops'. Rather than covering a coherent story format this book reads as a series of gags and irony ridden tales of the military's attempts to train their own X-men.

Ronson crafts a bizarre conspiracy,
Aug 10, 2008 Rhys rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hardly ever read non-fiction, I don't know why. I often enjoy non-fiction more than fiction. Maybe it's because I *write* fiction myself. I do occasionally read history books, but rarely cover to cover. This one is an exception: but it's not just history, it's also investigative journalism of the highest calibre.

This astonishing book tells the recent history of US Military psychic warfare, a very shady area that overlaps with PsyOps (psychological warfare), Black Ops (secret assassination squa
Let me first say that this audiobook has the best narrator ever. Sean Mangan’s voice is perfectly suited to the serious yet ridiculous nature of the text. But of course, I loved The Men Who Stare at Goats for more than its narrator - the content of the book is a fascinating, bizarre, and disturbing exploration of the American military that, much like Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, will have you cracking up one minute and pondering important issues the next. Overall, this is an intensely interesti ...more
Aug 23, 2016 Aimee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read and enjoyed some of Ronson's other books, such as 'So You've Been Publicly Shamed', but as I'm not really interested in military issues I wasn't sure I'd like this one. However I was proved wrong very quickly; the story was gripping and Ronson's mix of humour and naivety makes him an endearing narrator. I finished this book very quickly and didn't want to stop reading, and the issues raised stayed with me to the point that I wanted to discuss them with others and do my own research t ...more
Ana Rînceanu
Just when I thought the world can't get any weirder, this book comes along and proves me wrong.
Mar 26, 2017 Crystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wtf did I just read? I can't comprehend this. At parts it's so ridiculous, but then it's like well that's eerily plausible.
Frederick Heald
Jun 08, 2017 Frederick Heald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't get this confused with the fictional movie starring George Clooney. Though the subject is the same, the fact is a lot stranger and more entertaining than the fiction.
Christopher Roth
This is such a difficult topic to research that I'm not sure anyone can really write the book he wants to write on the subject, and what Ronson settles for is a highly impressionistic, meandering (i.e. organized around the narrative of his investigations and discoveries) but nonetheless trenchant and informative look at the sillier--which shades into scarier--side of secret intelligence work. Beginning with an investigation into experiments in lethal telekinesis by military intelligence (hence t ...more
Erik Graff
Oct 28, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: Kelly Kingdon
Shelves: history
Every year a friend of my roommate comes here from Canada to attend a bookseller's convention downtown and every year he brings the two of us books from his store in Manitoba. One of them this year was Ronson's The Men Who Stare at Goats.

Even though I'd seen the movie, I hadn't known there was a book behind it nor that its author, Jon Ronson, had also authored the book on political extremism that Mike Miley had had me read a couple of years ago while visiting him in California. Like Them: Advent
May 20, 2013 Pink rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So many emotions. This book wasn't quite what I thought it would be...a humorous account of crackpot guys doing crazy things, such as trying to stop a goat's heart by the power of the mind. Okay well it was that. It also detailed events surrounding Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, 911, Waco, MK-ULTRA and the 'War on terror'. Jon Ronson wrote this in 2004 at a time when Iraq was just being handed back from coalition forces to the new Iraqi government (which of course has been a great success on all si ...more
This was a weird, hilarious, and utterly fascinating read. It is an account of some of the stranger attempts by the US military to get an edge on its opponents. Apparently, under the leadership of a crackpot military intelligence chief (and others) the military engaged in a number of very odd programs that looked into the uses of parapsychology, psychic warfare, remote viewing, loony public relations programs, drugging subjects, subliminal suggestions, and more. This is mind-blowing stuff, and v ...more
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Underground Knowl...: The (real) man who stared at goats 3 118 Jun 28, 2017 02:09AM  
Underground Knowl...: The Men Who Stare at Goats, by Jon Ronson 15 26 Dec 08, 2014 01:48PM  
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Jon Ronson is a writer and documentary filmmaker. His work includes the international bestsellers Them: Adventures With Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was adapted into a major motion picture starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.

A contributor to The Guardian, Ronson is the author of the columns "Human Zoo" and "Out of the Ordinary". He writes and p
More about Jon Ronson...

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“Most goat-related military activity is still highly classified.” 18 likes
“The Americans have always been better than the Iraqis at the leaflets. Early on in the first Gulf War, Iraqi PsyOps dropped a batch of their own leaflets on US troops, designed to be psychologically devastating. They read, 'Your wives are back at home having sex with Bart Simpson and Burt Reynolds.” 6 likes
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